Gig Review: Taylor Swift

SSE Hydro 23/6/15

By Natalie Lorimer

An artist that consistently continues to feed the media fascination with fandom and pop super stardom is Taylor Swift. Her seemingly unstoppable ascension from America’s country sweetheart to global pop-queen has become one of her most interesting and marketable assets. Her bold and extravagant interactions with fans through social media and personal encounters during the promotion of her latest LP ‘1989’ made headlines, sending one fan money while inviting others into her own home. Swift’s fans are as passionate about her as she is them.

Although her generosity and informal nature are key elements of her pop star brand, I didn’t expect them to translate from stage to crowd each night on a sold out global tour. Such a gap seemed hard to bridge.

‘The 1989 World Tour’ took over Glasgow’s SSE Hydro Arena for one night in June – Swift’s first ever Scottish concert. It was the start of an interactive experience from the moment fans sat down; a digital bracelet was placed on every seat in the arena with instructions to turn it on when signaled.

Only moments later, the Taylor-themed quiz displayed on the big screens blinked off along with the lights. The signal to remove the tabs from the bracelets showed. Screams were drowned out by the punchy synthesizer riff of ‘Welcome to New York’ as dancers carrying newspapers dashed around the stage to recreate the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. Swift arrived on stage with a gracious smile, like the Good Fairy appearing from her bubble, and purple lights emitting from thousands of wrists waved back at her.

Pace was the centre of the entire show. Swift and her dancers kept a constant flow of energy as they rattled off every song from ‘1989’ with a unique routine. ‘Blank Space’ was performed while Swift walked sassily down her runway, flicking the fringes of her dress. ‘I Know Places’ featured dancers hiding behind doors on wheels in a game of cat-and-mouse, and ‘How You Get The Girl’ revived the New York theme with rain, umbrellas and light up dresses. Just as each performance had its own twist, the colour and flicker of the bracelets changed in time to the music to pull fans into the experience.

Older fan favourites were reworked to bring them into 2015; ‘Love Story’ was transformed by slow synthesiser beats and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ roared out with crunching guitars and black leather. A refreshing twist on radio hits.

The middle of the 2 hour set saw the runway transform into a cherry picker-like contraption; lifting Swift high above the audience to perform an acoustic rendition of b-side ‘You Are in Love’ and the slower ballad ‘Clean.’ She paused momentarily in-between to make a flawless speech of self-empowerment. Eventually even the voice in the back of my head, telling me that we weren’t the first to hear these words, gave in to accept her sincerity.

A brief pause in the otherwise hyperactive show came as Swift left to put on her most flamboyant dress of the evening and a grand piano arrived on stage. Audience entertainment came in the form of a video of Swift’s gal pal squad; Cara Delevingne, Lena Dunham, Karlie Kloss, and others gushed over their friend, earning squeals from the crowd. Another nod to her brand.

Lead single ‘Shake it Off’ played the night out on a high as every ounce of energy left was thrown into the pyrotechnic-filled dance number. Listening to the crowd sing along to lyrics that dismiss life’s critics and embrace positivity, I couldn’t help but admire how well the Taylor Swift brand works. From bracelets and quizzes to empowering monologues and lyrics – the crowd was a fan base that felt included. Swift welcomed us into her world for an evening.

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